Frequently Asked Questions About Cognitive Processing Therapy

Traumatic life events cause symptoms and behaviors in people that negatively impact their lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be extremely draining for a person who has the condition. They may need to undergo specific treatments such as Cognitive Processing Therapy, which is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy.


Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) involves techniques that reduce symptoms of PTSD. It has proven to be effective in lessening the harmful effects of trauma in a person’s life. Furthermore, it gives patients tools that they can use to overcome unhelpful beliefs caused by trauma.

The first thing that the therapist will tackle in CPT is understanding what PTSD is and how it affects the person. CPT aims to develop a better relationship between an individual and thoughts and emotions. The therapy will teach how to “label” feelings by identifying and understanding them better. 

Throughout the following Cognitive Processing Therapy sessions, the therapist will serve as a guide by confronting and dissecting the trauma.

Eventually, the therapist will help identify points wherein there are “distorted cognitions,” such as self-blame and other guilt cognitions. Upon identifying these distorted beliefs, the therapist will assist in how to challenge and change them.

The end goal of Cognitive Processing Therapy is to be able to apply the skills outside of treatment. It aims to improve the handling of difficult situations related to traumas that bring out distorted beliefs.

How does cognitive processing therapy work? 

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It typically consists of 12 sessions of psychotherapy for trauma and PTSD. The process allows patients to conceptualize traumatic events in their life and develop ways to handle their adverse effects.

In doing so, patients can change how they think about their traumas and ultimately change how they feel about them.

How effective is cognitive processing therapy?       

Studies have shown that CPT is effective in reducing PTSD symptoms checklist scores. It also shows that CPT is highly effective in conditions reflective of clinical practice. It is especially beneficial for veterans, victims of abuse, and people who suffered from natural disasters.

What is cognitive processing?      

Cognitive processing is a term that refers to the series of cognitive operations that our brain does. It centers on all the information we take in and storing, altering, recovering, and applying it. Examples of cognitive processing include reading, calculating numbers, making decisions, and more.

Is cognitive processing therapy evidence-based?

CPT is under the category of evidence-based manualized treatment. Its focus is on addressing symptoms of trauma and PTSD and looking at how patients perceive traumatic events. It allows patients to develop ways for them to regain their sense of control in life.

What are the 8 cognitive skills?     

Cognitive skills refer to abilities developed by the brain to process information effectively. These skills are often categorized into eight.  Each category reflects a different method of how the brain interprets and uses information. The eight cognitive skills are:

  1. Sustained attention
  2. Response inhibition
  3. Processing speed
  4. Working memory
  5. Simultaneous attention
  6. Logic and reasoning
  7. Category formation
  8. Pattern recognition

Who needs cognitive behavioral therapy? 

CBT is a psychological treatment method that can address a wide range of psychological conditions. People suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance problems, and mental illnesses can benefit the most from CBT.

What therapy is best for trauma?

Numerous therapy approaches can address trauma and traumatic responses. Since each approach has a different focus and methods, many therapists would combine them in their practice.

However, the most commonly integrated therapies for trauma include psychotherapy, exposure therapy, CBT, EMDR, hypnotherapy, and psychodynamic therapy.


What therapy is best for PTSD?     

Most therapies for PTSD fall under the umbrella category of CBT. The methods involved in CBT allow PTSD patients to change their thought patterns about their fears and trauma. One of the best therapies for PTSD under CBT is cognitive processing therapy (CPT).

How do I get certified in cognitive processing therapy? 

Getting certified in CPT would require professional licensure as a psychotherapist. You would also need to undergo the necessary training, group consultations, initiation of CPT cases, and knowledge of CPT standardized instruments. You will then be subject to evaluation based on your qualifications.

Is Prolonged exposure therapy evidence-based?

Prolonged exposure falls under the category of evidence-based treatment for PTSD. It involved in-vivo exposure, imaginal exposure, and processing of traumatic memory. Many studies support prolonged exposure as one of the best treatment methods for PTSD.

Who developed cognitive processing therapy?

The person responsible for developing CPT is Dr. Patricia Resick in 1988. Together with other psychologists, they focused on treating PTSD symptoms of victims of sexual assault. Later, Dr. Candice M. Monson conducted the initial randomized controlled trials of CPT for PTSD treatment with U.S. Veterans.

What are stuck points?

Stuck points in CPT refers to statements and thoughts that restrict trauma patients from moving forward from their traumas. These statements, which often revolve around safety, trust, control, esteem, and intimacy, keep trauma patients from recovering.

It skews their perception of reality in an unhealthy way, which leads to withdrawal from things that they associate as threats.

How can I improve my cognitive skills?

Improving your cognitive skills allows you to perform better in almost all aspects of life. It helps enhance your attention, thought process, and problem-solving skills.

Working on your cognitive skills involves taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Therefore, being physically active, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, maintaining social connections, and brain exercises can improve cognitive skills.

What is the 30-question cognitive test?

We refer to the 30-question cognitive test as the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) or Folstein test. It is an extensive test commonly used in research and clinical settings to measure potential cognitive impairment or dysfunction. It is also a widely-used screening instrument for dementia in medicine and allied health.

What are three examples of cognitive skills?

Cognitive skills are the abilities related to thinking and reasoning that requires the brain to process information. Some common examples of cognitive skills are spatial awareness, logical reasoning, and visual and auditory processing.


Suffering through trauma can negatively impact life because it considerably changes a person’s way of thinking. PTSD patients are more prone to believe that they are at fault for what has happened to them. They might also think that the world is a dangerous place. 

A traumatic event brings them to the point where they have varying emotions that are hard to untangle alone. There might be a feeling of fear or distrust towards the world.

However, perceiving oneself to be responsible for the situation is more likely. It is very common for PTSD patients to overthink what they could have done more to prevent the event from happening.

The duration of Cognitive Processing Therapy is shorter compared to other forms of therapy. It normally takes about 12 sessions, which are around 60 to 90 minutes each. The effect may begin to take place after the first few sessions.

Cognitive Processing Therapy will teach how to separate and categorize emotions to understand better how it affects reactions to situations.

If you decide to undergo CPT, you will write an Impact Statement during the first session. It will contain how impactful your experiences are towards yourself, your family, and the rest of your loved ones. 

From there, your therapist will work with you for 12 sessions. By the end of it, you will learn how to become more self-aware. Self-awareness makes catching false beliefs about yourself a lot easier. Managing situations and switching up your way of thinking becomes a lot faster and better. 

You may feel broken and distrustful of the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t heal. Through CPT, you can mend your ways of thinking for a better, healthier life.